x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Positive thoughts are behind UAE success

The outlook of coach Aaqib Javed is rubbing off on all our team, says spinner Ahmed Raza.

Ahmed Raza, the UAE bowler.
Ahmed Raza, the UAE bowler.

SHARJAH // The cargo handlers, storekeepers, office clerks and electricians who make up the national cricket team will bid to regain a title which once seemed to be their birthright when they face Nepal today.

Not so long ago, the UAE were the undisputed leaders of this strata of cricket on the continent.

With four successive ACC Trophy titles up until 2008, it used to seem like the national team only had to turn up to this competition and the cup was theirs.

The landscape has changed markedly in those four years, however. Afghanistan have rapidly advanced to the point they now play regularly against the sport's elite, while Nepal have also started to deliver on a rich potential for the game.

The UAE have responded to the challenge lately, though. Aaqib Javed, their new coach, has built on the foundations laid by Kabir Khan, his predecessor, and the national team have already accounted for the Afghans, the defending champions, in this tournament.

On the back of that eight-wicket thrashing in the last four, the national team's players are understandably in high spirits ahead of the final.

"We are really on the right pathway now," said Ahmed Raza, the UAE spinner who has taken 12 wickets at an average of a measly 8.5 runs in this tournament.

"[Aaqib] is very positive and that is rubbing off on all our team. He doesn't want anything negative around us.

"Even the players who are not playing, they are very positive. It is a team game, and as Aaqib says, we win as 17 members of a team and lose as 17 members of a team."

For the UAE to return to the winner's circle today they will have to avenge the defeat they suffered at the hands of the same opposition, at the same ground, on the opening day of the tournament.

Nepal were comfortable winners back then, as the UAE's talented batting line-up misfired on what appeared to be a typically docile Sharjah batting track.

"In the first game we lost because of bad batting," said Shadeep Silva, the left-arm spinner who takes the new ball for the national team.

"Now the top of our batting line-up is in form coming into the final, so we don't really need to think too much about that first game anymore."

Nepal's form in this competition, as well as the strength of their age-group cricket, jars with the fact they have been washing around the lower reaches of international competition in times past.

According to Pubudu Dassanayake, the former Sri Lanka Test player who is now Nepal's coach, they are on an upwards curve.

"They are learning about how to play at this level now," Dassanayake said.

"For some reason they have been sagging down in divisions five and four. Somehow we need to climb up to division one."

Paras Khadka, the captain who has been in peerless form in this competition so far, says much of Nepal's improvement is due to the arrival of Dassanayake.

"The coach has instilled a lot of good thoughts in the boys," Khadka said.

"He told us we have always had the skills but the performances didn't always come at the right place.

"We want to move in the right direction and everything is falling into place."